Starbucks Apologizes To Woman Denied Entry With Service Dog

Starbucks In Hot Water For Kicking Out Service Dog
A 24-year-old Brighton, N.Y., college student said she had an emotionally shaking experience when an employee at a Starbucks told her to leave because of her service dog, USA Today reported. Amy Kaplan was so upset that she recorded the end of the incident on her phone, posted it on YouTube and contacted the chain's customer service department.

Now, Starbucks is trying to make amends. A spokesperson told AOL Jobs the chain is "very sorry to hear about her experience and we've been trying to reach out to her via phone and email." Kaplan told USA Today that while she received an email from the company, her phone was not working and she was unable to take the call. The chain has yet to hear back from her, the spokesperson said.

Denying entry to a person with a service dog is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kaplan told WHEC-TV she wants to use the incident to help teach people about those who need service dogs.

Kaplan suffers from severe bipolar disorder and also suffered a traumatic brain injury two years ago, USA Today reported, when she worked as a first responder on an ambulance that had a collision with a bus. She has memory issues and depends on her malamute, Zero, who she trained to help her with such tasks as finding her apartment or managing anxiety.

Kaplan recorded part of the exchange with the Starbucks employee. Although Zero often wears a service dog vest, the temperature was 80 degrees and she did not want to add another layer to the heavily-coated animal. She wrote that the man started "harassing" and "screaming" at her and only quieted somewhat when Kaplan was clearly recording the incident.

Later that day, Kaplan recorded a video describing the impact the event had on her.

At times visibly shaken and seemingly close to tears, she explained that after all the work she put into training her malamute, Zero, she wonders if what she hoped would "help me get my life back" might ultimately not work because of the public's reaction.

If you were a person in a wheelchair, how would you feel if every place you ever went, someone said, 'Get out, you can't have that wheelchair in here. We don't allow wheelchairs in here.' It's overwhelming. You know, some people are just uneducated about it and you can resolve it easily, and then some people become very offensive and very aggressive. Especially for people who have problems with anxiety, it can make our medical conditions so much worse. I don't even know if I can do this anymore.

A Starbucks representative stressed in the conversation with AOL Jobs that the company's policy is to "always welcome service animals into our stores." The company said that it specifically stresses to new employees, and to all in annual reminders, that they can ask if an animal is a service dog but many do not ask for documentation. The spokesperson did say that although such incidents are "not a common occurrence in our stores," it was not the first time something like this happened.

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